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A collection of current topics, news, and press.

TechConnect West Virginia’s ScaleUp West Virginia Program Helping Early-Stage Company Move Ahead

By TechConnectWV News


With the help of TechConnect West Virginia’s ScaleUp West Virginia program, an early-stage company created by two graduate students and an associate professor at West Virginia University is developing a new radio frequency-based tool to help make research laboratory environments more efficient.

Wright Wold Scientific was created in 2015 by Zach Wright, a graduate student in WVU’s Pharmaceutical and Pharmacological Sciences program; Brandon Lucke-Wold, a graduate student in the university’s Neurobiology and Anatomy program; and Dr. Daryl Reynolds, an associate professor in WVU’s Department of Computer Science and Electrical Engineering. The team recently added Brandon Cook, a student in WVU’s College of Business and Economics’ MBA program.

The company is developing a product it calls the SwiftTag Inventory System (patent pending). SwifTag is designed to use Radio Frequency Identification (RFID) technology to inventory, identify and track laboratory animals more efficiently and without the need for the researcher to handle the animal.

The most sophisticated laboratory subject tracking system on the market today uses barcodes and barcode readers. That system still requires a researcher to handle animal subjects whenever information is required. Many laboratories still apply metal ear tags to their subjects for tracking and logging information by hand. SwifTag is unique in that it allows researchers to collect information without handling the subjects.

The idea for the SwifTag product was born out of Wright’s and Lucke-Wold’s own laboratory experiences.

Research laboratories are where solutions to critical health and environmental issues are discovered and developed,” Lucke-Wold said. “Zach and I realized that some of the most important processes and tools used in research haven’t been improved in decades. That’s when we developed the idea for our SwiftTag Inventory System.”

The Swiftag system uses small, plastic-encased electronic chips coupled with smartphone technology to collect and seamlessly integrate animal tagging and tracking information, thus significantly reducing the need to handle subjects.

Drawing on Wright’s and Lucke-Wold’s laboratory experiences, Dr. Reynolds, the company’s third principal, began developing the RFID-based equipment and software platforms that would enable the system.

As an early-stage company, Wright Wold Scientific recognized its need for outside support to move their idea forward. The company reached out to INNOVA Commercialization Group, an initiative of the Fairmont-based High Technology Foundation that provides business support, and seed and early-stage investment capital programs in support of commercialization opportunities. After learning more about Wright Wold Scientific’s idea and its unique opportunity in the market, Guy Peduto, director of INNOVA, enlisted the help of the Robert C. Byrd Institute for Advanced Flexible Manufacturing (RCBI) in Huntington.

Working in a coordinated approach, INNOVA and RCBI have used their respective expertise to support the company in designing a working prototype. INNOVA is helping the group to refine its business plan and put in place organizational structures necessary for success. RCBI has used its design and prototyping expertise to help design and develop a prototype of the handheld device that will apply the RFID chip to the subject’s ear. The Center for Applied Research and Technology (CART) at Bluefield State College also contributed by providing valuable perspective on materials and technology strategies.

INNOVA, RCBI and CART are three of five sub-awardees in TechConnect West Virginia’s ScaleUp West Virginia program, an initiative made possible by the U.S. Economic Development Administration and the State of West Virginia. The ScaleUp West Virginia program is helping West Virginia companies develop new products and technologies and move them to market; support small manufacturers in adopting advanced tools and processes; and promote increased entrepreneurial activity in our state. The program targets 40 counties, including many that have been particularly affected by the loss of mining jobs, as well as jobs directly related to the mining industry.

Anne Barth, TechConnect West Virginia’s executive director, said the project with Wright Wold Scientific represents West Virginia’s growing entrepreneurial activity and the ScaleUp West Virginia program’s capacity to leverage West Virginia-based expertise to support the state’s established companies and entrepreneurs.

Wright Wold Scientific

Wright Wold Scientific was born out of three West Virginians’ entrepreneurial vision and energy,” Barth said. “A part of TechConnect West Virginia’s mission is to connect young companies with the resources and expertise they need to move their product ideas to market. Our ScaleUp West Virginia program is providing resources that allow INNOVA and RCBI to help put an early-stage West Virginia company on a path toward success.”

WVU’s LaunchLab, the university’s resource center for business startups, sponsored the company’s participation in a recent SXSW PitchTexas Competition at the University of Texas. PitchTexas is an opportunity for the best startups from the across the nation to pitch their businesses, field questions from investors and entrepreneurs, and compete for up to $10,000 in prizes.

The Wright Wold team claimed a $2,000, 3rd place finish in the competition over teams from MIT, UCLA and more than 30 other universities.

Looking back on the competition, Zach Wright said, “SXSW and PitchTexas was an irreplaceable experience to not only gain feedback for our company on how to move forward but also to begin building relationships with like-minded entrepreneurs that are in a similar step in their startup processes. It was a bit intimidating looking at where the competition was coming from but, when we got there, we realized that we were just as prepared, and often more prepared, than other teams.”

The team says their next steps include securing funding to finalize its prototype, sourcing manufacturers, and completing beta-testing of the SwifTag and smartphone app. The goal is to make the product ready for market by this fall.

For more information on TechConnect West Virginia, ScaleUp West Virginia, and other TechConnect West Virginia programs, visit http://techconnectwv.org/innovation/programs/.


“A Special Day to Grow Jobs” City of Bluefield receives $2 million grant for Commercialization Station

By Charlie Booth Bluefield Daily Telegraph

jenkinsBLUEFIELD — The City of Bluefield is receiving a $2,040,000 grant for its Commercialization Station on Bluefield Avenue.

Rep. Evan Jenkins (3rd District) joined city officials and others Thursday afternoon to make the announcement at the station, located in the former headquarters of the Bluefield Regional Transit Authority.

What a great day to be in Bluefield,” he said. “This is a special day to grow jobs.”

A matching grant of more than $500,000 will be included from the Shott Foundation, he added.

The $2 million grant is through the federal Economic Development Administration (EDA) with funding that was included in the POWER initiative, a strategy to help communities struggling to cope with the impact of the loss of coal-related jobs.

Jenkins is on the appropriations committee, which earmarks which agencies receive those federal dollars. He said he works closely with the EDA and thanked the agency for providing the funding.

Jenkins said job creation is the goal of the station, a business incubator aimed at helping entrepreneurs.

Good jobs solve a lot of problems,” he said.

Jenkins said the station project, which was spearheaded by the city’s community and economic development director, Jim Spencer, took a vision then put the “pieces of the puzzle into place.”

We always want to be a partner with you in these efforts,” he said. “Let’s make an investment, and this is what it is. Thank you for allowing me to work with you.”

Jenkins said Mercer County, like many counties in this region, has “taken it on the chin (in economic woes),” and it takes local officials having a “clear vision” and working together to make it happen.

You are all awesome,” he said, also praising the Shott Foundation. “It’s an honor to work with you. We will work with you every step of the way.”

Del. John Shott, with the Shott Foundation, said the grant may be historic.

I can’t ever recall a day when we had an amount like this coming to Bluefield,” he said. “The spigot (of federal dollars) has finally opened for us.”

Shott pointed out three other foundation board members in attendance, Frank Wilkinson, Chandler Swope and Smokey Shott. “We are all really excited about this,” he said.

Bluefield Mayor Tom Cole could not attend the announcement but through a precorded video said Spencer started working on this project right after he was hired last year, and found the space and pursued the funding.

We are excited about the opportunities this brings to our region,” he said.

Bluefield City Manager Dane Rideout said the station project was the “brainchild” of Spencer.

This is a homerun,” he said of the grants, adding that it took a vision followed up with action. “That’s powerful.”

This is not about a single entity,” he said. “It’s about a partnership. This will train people (and provide jobs) so they can stay here. This is absolutely phenomenal.”

Spencer also emphasized that partnership.

Economic development is a team sport,” he said, calling Jenkins “our D.C. champion.”

Spencer said many partners are involved in helping not only bring the station to fruition, but to provide the resources necessary to make it work.

Those partners include the Center for Applied Research & Technology (CART), Bluefield State College, TechConnect West Virginia, Concord University, American National University, AEP, Mercer County Technical Education Center, the Development Authority of the Great Bluefield Area, the Robert C. Byrd Institute, E.L. Robinson Engineering and others.

It’s all of us working together,” he said, urging those in attendance to speak about the station to anyone having a business idea.

It’s a manufacturing and technology center,” he said, with the overall purpose of moving ideas and innovations into the marketplace.

One start-up business, Autonomous Radio Controlled Equipment, is already operational inside of the center.

The announcement took place in a large bay, and Spencer said three other bays at the station are available.

We want to fill them up as soon as possible,” he said, adding that anyone can visit the website mybluefied.org to learn the details of how to get started and possibly locating a business in the center.

An incubation application is included on that website.

Spencer said services provided by all of the partners involved in the station include incubation, office and production space, business networking, grant assistance, business coaching, funding, incentives, workforce training, manufacturing processes, technical support, business planning and entrepreneurship training.

Spencer said the money will be used for electrical upgrades, lighting, doors and other improvements to the 60,000-sq.-ft. structure.

Communities cannot sit back and do nothing about creating jobs, he added.

We need to be aggressive in economic development,” he said. “This is a great day.”

Contact Charles Boothe at This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it..




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City of Bluefield awarded $2 million grant for business incubator

By Frances Peyton, WVVA Multimedia Journalist

City of Bluefield awarded 2 million grant for business incubator

A boost for economic development was announced on Thursday at the Commercialization Station in Bluefield, WV.

U.S. Rep. Evan Jenkins teamed-up with local leaders to present a $2,040,000 grant to create an incubator for manufacturing companies.

"People just need a place to get started and we are creating that opportunity," says U.S. Rep Evan Jenkins.

Bluefield Economic Director Jim Spencer explains what this means for the community.

“It's almost like when a child is learning to ride a bicycle. Our incubator is just the same principle. To support small business tied to manufacturing and technology until they are ready to move out to their own facilities. So we want to grow jobs here,” says Spencer.

If you're a small business owner or someone with a great idea looking to get off the ground, visit the website mybluefield.org. Navigate to the business section, click on the tab that reads“Commercialization Station,” and fill out an application.
Joining leaders & neighbors in Bluefield to celebrate a $2M EDA grant for the Commercialization Center. pic.twitter.com/5uUvzwtRaC
— Rep. Evan Jenkins (@RepEvanJenkins) October 20, 2016

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More Than 2 Million Dollar Grant Announced For Commercialization Station In Bluefield

By Tiffany Harris

More Than 2 Million Dollar Grant Announced For Commercialization Station In BluefieldIn Mercer County, the city of Bluefield was given a grant from the Economic Development Administration on Thursday October 20, 2016 to help the Commercialization Station on Bluefield Avenue.  That station is designed to help grow small manufacturing businesses.  U.S. Representative Evan Jenkins announced the $2,040,000 grant from the EDA.  It was coupled with a $510,000 grant from the Shott Foundation.  The grant is going towards renovating the Commercialization Station.  

Community and Economic Development Director Jim Spencer said, "This incubator can serve any business in the region.  It's not just about businesses within the city. It's about the region. We're in this together. Economic development is a team sport. We got a group of partners that will try to help them be successful. We want to support them."

The building was vacant for about 4 or 5 years.  It will have 5 bays and it will be able to serve 5 businesses at once.  It also used to house the Bluefield Transit Authority.

Dan Shortridge is a member of the Development Authority of Greater Bluefield.  He thinks this is a great opportunity for Bluefield.  Shortridge said, "Someone can bring their existing idea and in an environment that is a factory type environment. They can grow their business by building, by creating it."

Spencer hopes the renovations will begin by this winter.  Anyone interested in applying as an incubator business can go to mybluefield.org.

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Bluefield Commercialization Center awarded $2 million POWER grant

By CHARLIE BOOTHE Bluefield Daily Telegraph

Bluefield Commercialization Center awarded 2 million POWER grant

BLUFIELD — The city of Bluefield has received a $2,040,000 grant for its Commercialization Station on Bluefield Avenue.

U.S. Rep. Evan Jenkins, R-W.Va., joined city officials Thursday afternoon to make the announcement at the station.
A matching grant of more than $500,000 will be included from the Shott Foundation.

The $2 million grant is through the POWER initiative grant program that was part of the Obama Administration’s strategy to help communities struggling with the impact of the loss of coal-related jobs to recover.

Jenkins said job creation is the goal of the business incubator aimed at entrepreneurs.

“Good jobs solve a lot of problems,” he said, praising city officials, other partners in the endeavor and Jim Spencer, the city’s economic development director.

Spencer said the money will be used to renovate the station, which is housed in the former headquarters of the Bluefield Transit Authority.

“This is a homerun,” City Manager Dane Rideout said of the grants. “This is absolutely phenomenal.”

Contact Charles Boothe at This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it..

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CART: ingenuity to industry

c iconFrom applied research to technology transfer and training, unmanned systems to rapid prototyping, software development to program support and web solutions, CART transports the energy of ingenuity to the industries that power the world.